This article is part of our new experimental series, Backlog Club, where we (Nintendo Life!) Choose a game that is likely to be on our list of “games we should get around to playing”, and so we (NL + you!) spend the next month playing that game. This is halfway, part 1 of two, where we stop for a minute to check in with the game and how much we enjoy it.
In April 2022 we play Slay The Spire! Not to finish, necessarily, but we will still try to give it a fair crack.
I do not believe in “slow and steady wins the race”. I think it’s a stupid feeling, even though there’s a nugget of truth in it: Take your time and be careful so you get better results. I just do not think so wins a race. The fable about the turtle and the hare only works because the hare takes a nap! The hare deserved to win by virtue of being much, much faster, and the lure had nothing to do with whether the turtle was good at capsizing.
This whole preamble is to say that I have had to reconsider my need for speed in the light of rogue-like tire builders, a genre that I am very fond of. Slay The Spire – the choice for the Backlog Club this week – is one of them and it’s damn fine. (Oh, and if you’m not sure what I’m talking about, check out the Backlog Club introduction I wrote a few weeks ago. It makes sense in a bit.)
In roguelikes and deckbuilders, slow and stable may not win the race (i.e. a speedrunning tournament), but it certainly wins the game.
My usual tactic is just to try to get things over with as quickly as possible
In most strategy games, my usual tactic is just to try to get things over with as quickly as possible, fill up my list of attacks with what does the most damage, and hope I only have to make a few moves to kill my the opponent dead. In RPGs, I would usually take a rogue or DPS building because they allow me to hammer on the “attack” button until my enemies cool down in defeat. I’m no strategist, most of the time; I’m only a tip tank, content to swap injury for injury as long as I come out victorious.
And that only does not work in turn-based deckbuilder games like Slay The Spire. So I’ll have to try something new, even if it’s not new to most people, and that tactic is something I like to call “actually worrying about defense”. It’s this ingenious thing that I’m actually trying to repeal the attacks before they are even made, instead of mitigating the damage as usual.
Slay The Spire is not about taking hits – with only 80 HP for your name, you can not really afford it. Instead, you will need to use more strategies to survive, because survival is the key to getting to the next battle, and the next and the next. You’re an underdog.
Other video games, especially RPGs, tend to place you as the world’s strongest Punch Man, but Slay The Spire instead gives you The Ironclad as your starting fighter, a midrange character whose card game is roughly balanced between attacking and blocking without anyone major off-the-wall strategies (the other unlockable characters vary this, but since we’re only a few weeks inside Slay The Spire, I’ll only focus on the beginner character). His tactics lean towards the fighting style tit-for-tat: Beat, block, beat, block and so on. The challenge is to survive long enough to defeat the enemies with 80+ HP, as your attacks usually only do 6-15 damage at a time.
And to survive means to take things slow. Where I would normally hit hard and take just as much damage in return, I will instead have to spend a large portion of my trips mitigating the damage. I only have three “energy” per. turn, and I can use it to strike, defend, or use various other unique cards that increase stats, decrease enemy stats, and so on. It’s tempting to use all three energy points to use my cool damaged cards, though slow and stable wins the race, so instead I use two of the energy points to defend, and the rest to attack, whereby I slowly break down the enemy’s HP. Keyword: slowly.
Sometimes all you can do is do your best to block damage so you can get to the next room or the next day
The thing with Slay The Spire so far is that it is not a race at all. You do not get bonus points for being fast or efficient. The only thing you get is the reward of getting to the next room. But sometimes it’s all you need – the next room can heal you, polish you, make you stronger or more resilient in some way. You just have to survive.
And, yes, I realize I’m the billionth person to make that joke. . It’s something like “put the oxygen mask on before you help others”. When you’re in a pickle – whether that pickle is that you’re having a bad day or that you’re fighting a bunch of weird little goblins who keep cursing you for taking more damage – sometimes everything’s you can do, do your best to block it so you can reach the next room or the next day.
Defending, protecting and surviving feels a bit boring and passive, but they can be the difference between defeat and success – even if that success is from the skin of the teeth themselves.
So this is how I feel about Slay The Spire after a few weeks! I’m excited to try the other characters – I’m just unlocked The Silent, and although I enjoy The Ironclad’s no-nonsense strategies, I’m interested in The Silent’s passive poison attacks. With The Ironclad, I managed to get to the boss of the other area, and he absolutely beat me. Tips and tricks are welcome!
And of course, this is only half way: come back at the end of the month to get our full thoughts on Slay The Spire and for the discussion section of
Book Club Backlog Club!